People Tell Me I Look Like Han Solo.
Friday, January 29, 2010
  DVD Review: 9
9 is an awesome little animated adventure film (not to be confused with the star-studded musical Nine, which doesn’t seem to be getting the Oscar buzz it was clearly constructed to generate) that packs more originality and verve into its opening 10 minutes than most animated movies do in 90 minutes (I’m referring specifically to the ones involving talking animals and/or ogres). There’s a singularity of vision on display in 9 that’s rare enough in movies in general these days, let alone children’s animation.

The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic landscape after a war with self-aware machines has wiped virtually all organic life from the world. But life continues in the ruins, even if it’s not made of flesh and blood; a handful of strange little living dolls is scraping out an existence, dodging larger, ferocious mechanical predators. It’s into this world that 9 (voiced by Elijah Wood) wakes up with no memories, and soon finds himself reunited with his burlap brethren. 9 ends up accidentally waking up the sinister machine intelligence that started the war, putting his new friends in danger, he takes it upon himself to shut it down once more, and ends up uncovering the origins of himself and his kind in the process.

Watching 9 again for this DVD review (I reviewed it in theatres as well, check out my thoughts here), I was half-tempted to go back and replace Up on my best of 2009 list with writer/director Shane Acker’s quirky little doll-centric fantasy tale. As much as the critic in me feels that Up is a better film objectively, I found 9 more exciting and fun to watch. With Up I felt like I was more appreciating the adventure than I was really getting into it; 9 actually had me jumping and moving around like I do when I’m really into an action movie (if you’ve ever noticed how some people jerk around unconsciously while playing video games, I do that with movies sometimes [I also do it with video games]). And none of this is a knock against Up, which is a wonderful movie that’s as emotionally affecting as 90% of live-action films released in any given year, and that’s something I can’t say for 9. But 9 really turned my action/geek crank, with its unique look and the wonderfully original world Acker and his team have created. Usually when I say positive things about an animat9, 7 and 2 in the thick of ited kids’ movie, it’s in the context of the movie not really being my thing personally, but when I say 9 is a genuinely exciting action-adventure movie, I mean it in the sense that it’s actually better than a lot of action movies aimed at more grown-up audiences.

There’s a darkness to 9 that will intrigue a lot of older kids, but some of the imagery can be somewhat unsettling (genuinely scary monsters, depictions of war and the resulting apocalypse, etc.) If you don’t relish the thought of explaining to a 5-year-old the concept of evil machines releasing a toxin that wipes out all living things on Earth, maybe wait a few years before watching 9 with them. That said, while 9 does have considerably more edge to it than, say, Monsters vs. Aliens, it’s really not as bleak as its post-apocalyptic setting would suggest. The themes of friendship and heroism and personal responsibility resonate with all audiences, and the film manages to be cute and charming when it needs to be without being cloying or saccharine.

The scale of 9, while also providing lots of opportunities for cool little innovative design gags (sewing needles and kitchen knives used as swords, fishing lines used as grappling hooks, broken dolls’ faces atop terrifying mechanical apparitions), also makes our heroes running across a desk into an action sequence, and crossing the street into a Tolkien-esque adventure.

The voice acting in 9 is also quite solid. Casting actors like Wood, John C. Reilly, Martin Landau, Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover and Christopher Plummer rather than big-name celebrities gives the performances an authenticity that doesn’t keep pulling you out of the movie because it’s clearly Will Smith or Jack Black doing the talking. Reilly in particular is great, making 2 sort 'Oh. Great.'of skittish and jumpy, but he never comes across a coward. Within a few minutes of his introduction, 2 is set up as 9’s best friend in the group, and the viewer never questions it.

Even after multiple viewings, I’m still quite impressed with 9. Director Shane Acker, who expanded a short film he made as a student (which earned him an Oscar nomination in 2005) for his feature debut, is the most unique and interesting new voice in American animation to come along in a long time. If 9 is any indication of what this guy is capable of, his will be a career to watch. 9 is a very cool little flick that I suspect will find an audience as a cult classic on video (the Dark Crystal of this generation, perhaps?), and I recommend it highly.



It’s always nice when a great movie gets a great DVD, and I’m happy to report that that’s the case with 9. When I saw the movie in theatres last year, I immediately wanted to know more about the world and the people who created it, and this DVD does a great job of exploring both. Writer/director Shane Acker provides commentary alongside animation director Joe Ksander, head of story Ryan O’Loughlin and editor Nick Kenway, and it’s lively and informative. These guys all know movies and have a real grasp of storytelling, and it really comes across. Acker himself is charming and smart, and manages to pepper the track with references to classic films he was trying to pay homage to without coming across as pretentious. And 9 has such a specific vision that it’s a treat getting to listen to the guy who’s vision it is discuss it.

Also included is a mini-documentary on the production of the film, a featurette on the character animation process, as well as Acker’s original short (which is very cool on its own), with optional commentary.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010
  One scary Mother
A proper North American trailer has poppped up for a South Korean movie I'm very interested in checking out called Mother. Longtime readers know of my love of Asian movies, and South Korea has really come into its own, producing a slew of insanely talented filmmakers, of which Bong Joon-ho is definitely one. Bong's previous movie, The Host, is easily the best monster movie I've seen in a decade (maybe more), fusing comedy, awesome scares and genuine human drama in a way I never thought was possible for a movie about a giant mutated salamander. It's a flat-out brilliant film, so to say I'm interested in whatever Bong has next is an understatement.

That new movie is Mother, about an awkward 27-year-old man-child who lives with his super-protective mom and is accused of murdering a girl. The crime throws the town into a tizzy, with everyone assuming his guilt, even after he's let off on a technicality. His mother then takes it upon herself to head out on an O.J.-like search for the real killer, and she doesn't seem to mind doing some killing of her own to clear her precious son's name.

The premise sounds very promising, and the movie is so well-regarded in South Korea that Mother is the country's submission for the best foreign language film Oscar at the Academy Awards. Throw in a slick trailer filled with some pretty impressive quotes (comparisons to Hitchcock, etc.), and you've got one very intriguing-looking thriller indeed.

Check out the new trailer for Mother via Apple. And see The Host if you can. I promise you won't regret it.

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Friday, January 22, 2010
  Spike Jonze + robots = YES
Spike Jonze has never made a feature film I haven’t been blown away by (he’s only made three, but still, 3-3 is still an excellent record in my books), and I picked his adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are was one of the best movies of 2009. Jonze, who got his start in commercials and music videos, is getting back to his roots, in a way, with I’m Here, a 30-minute short film produced for Absolut vodka that’s premiering at the Sundance Film Festival this year. And it’s about robots in love.

I’m not sure if this is an actual longform advertisement for vodka (which would be weird, to say the least), or if Absolut just produced it for the publicity and the movie isn’t about vodka (which would still be sort of weird, I guess, and will probably lead some people to question whether this type of corporate involvement is a harbinger of a new method of film financing), and I have no idea what form it will take when it’s released to the masses – if it’s only 30 minutes long, I would assume it’ll be on DVD rather than released in theaters – but it looks sweet and weirdly affecting; if Jonze could get me all misty watching giant furry monsters, he can probably get me with these wonderfully tactile-looking robots. Check out the trailer for I’m Here below. You’ll know more about this project when I do.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010
  DVD Review: Pandorum

Pandorum is a weird little sci-fi/horror movie. In some senses it’s better than I expected it to be, and in others it’s really quite bad. The story takes place on a ship in deep space, and follows Bower (Ben Foster), a member of the flight crew who awakens from hyper-sleep apparently before he’s supposed to. He finds the ship empty and apparently without power, and wakes Lt. Payton (Dennis Quaid), one of his superiors, to try to figure out what’s going on. The problem is that one of the side effects of the hyper-sleep process is temporary memory loss, so neither of them has much of an idea what they’re doing there. The two get separated when Bower descends into the bowels of the ship to try to get the power back on, only to find out he and Payton are far from the only people (or things) awake on the ship. (The title refers to a sort of “space madness” that causes hallucinations and other craziness as a result of long-term space travel.)

Pandorum, while being a sci-fi/horror movie that borrows very liberally from Alien and the Resident Evil movies (it shares producers with the latter series), is also structured largely as a mystery. Because of the conceit that Bower doesn’t really remember what he’s doing on the ship or even what their mission is, co-writer/director Christian Alvart doles out information a bit at a time as Bower pieces his memories back together. It’s an interesting idea (if a fairly obvious device to manufacture the mystery), and that’s where Pandorum’s strengths lie. Alvart is obviously a serious fan of science fiction, and the concepts he delves into, particularly in the final act as the mysteries in the film are revealed, are (with one glaring exception that I’ll touch on in a moment) certainly more intriguing and reminiscent of classic sci-fi stories about space travel than I expected.

Where Pandorum definitely does not work is the action. It’s explained in the DVD extras that the film started when two separate, similar projects (about the effects of extended space travel on the crew) were merged, and when I learned that, most of my issues with the movie seemed to be retroactively explained. The parts that work are the sci-fi elements; the parts that don’t are the horror and action elements. See, shortly after waking up, Bower encounters a bizarre, freakish mutant-thing with metal spikes sticking out of it, and subsequently learns from a couple of human survivors (who have clearly been awake for quite some time now, another nice little detail that deepens the pervading sense that something’s just wrong) that these creatures are infesting the ship.

The monsters aren’t necessarily lame because of how they look (they’re actually fairly creepy, especially their noseless leader…they were designed by Stan Winston studio; I just wish the late, great master’s final work was a better movie), but rather the explanation for what they are is vague and ultimately disappointing. I won’t spoil it, but considering how freakish they look, and how much the movie relies on them as a driver of the plot, their origin is basically tossed off in a line in passing. But in the light of the film’s aforementioned genesis as two separate projects, I assume the half-assed nature of the monsters is a casualty of that process. Maybe in the movie that was about monsters in space (rather than a bunch of people trying to figure out what’s going on with the ship while also evading bizarre monsters) they were more fleshed out. Usually things that go unexplained are scarier in movies like this (and I’m not asking for a prequel graphic novel or anything explaining how they came to be), but here the monsters are just a weird distraction, a way to keep things “exciting” by just having some more flesh-eating freaks show up every few minutes so the audience doesn’t get bored with all the talking. (The monsters, for some reason, also leap through the air, Crouching Tiger style, when they fight. It’s an incredibly irritating and stupid detail that makes no sense, is never explained, and makes the already-weak monsters even worse. I can’t express enough in words how much I hated that detail.)

While Bower’s dodging flesh-eating monsters, Payton remains on the bridge, trying to get the ship back up and running and figure out the situation for himself. He finds another crew member, Gallo (Cam Gigandet), hiding in a bunch of wires, and naturally, he has some more information to dole out to Quaid’s character in between cuts back to Bower and the two survivors he finds (played by German actress Antje Traue and mixed martial arts fighter Cung Le) as they sneak and fight their way through the ship.

Traue, while very hot, is charged with delivering the bulk of the film’s exposition – and in a movie relying this much on mystery to create tension, there is much explaining to be done – and her thick accent makes those scenes even more leaden than they should be (she also adopts an unfortunate “tough chick” growl that sounds totally put-on; her whole character is just a paint-by-numbers “ass-kicking woman,” which has, in itself, become a tired cliché in genre movies like this one). She sounds like she’s speaking phonetically, and it’s really noticeable every time she’s onscreen. That said, she is really hot, and there are worse things than watching her run around in a grimy tank-top.

Foster and Quaid, though, are the ones tasked with most of the heavy lifting in terms of acting, and they’re both solid. Foster is fast becoming one of my favorite young actors (his tweaked-out turn in Alpha Dog is amazing, and I’ve always lamented how wasted he was in the third X-Men movie), and he’s very good in his first big lead role. He wisely doesn’t play Bower as some sort of badass; of the three characters he spends the bulk of the movie with, he’s easily the least capable in a fight, which is an interesting dynamic considering he’s the hero. A less compelling actor in the role probably would have rendered much of Pandorum unwatchable. Quaid is also quite good, and he gets most of the over-the-top stuff to do – Payton is shown to be afflicted with Pandorum fairly early on, and Quaid is clearly having fun playing a guy gripped by space madness.

I actually dug most of the story and the ideas at play in Pandorum, but ultimately Alvart and company just didn’t do enough with it (not to mention the clearly shoehorned-in monsters). There’s a battle going on between a “things going wrong in space” thriller (an odd little subgenre of sci-fi thrillers than I have a major soft spot for) and a horror movie about flesh-eating monsters with big pieces of metal sticking out of them, and Pandorum’s biggest flaw is its failure to combine the two into anything more than a third-rate cross between Alien (a great movie, and a smart one to borrow from) and Resident Evil (decidedly less so). The twists at the end are actually pretty clever, and I didn’t see any of it coming. The mysteries are also handled well enough that, as much as I didn’t necessarily enjoy the movie, I can’t pretend I wasn’t interested to learn the explanation for everything. And with the exception of the origin of the monsters, all the revelations (and the ideas behind them) are intriguing enough that I was actually sort of disappointed they were lost in such an otherwise generic, unoriginal movie.



The Pandorum DVD has a nice assortment of stuff on it, including a commentary track from director Christian Alvart and producer Jeremy Bolt. Alvart’s clearly a smart guy who understands not only movies but also science fiction, and his perspective is fairly interesting, focusing more on the story and the characters and what he was going for in a given scene, while Bolt focuses more on the details of production. I never got bored by the track, but it didn’t really blow me away either.

There’s a collection of deleted and extended scenes, and most of them are slight variations or extensions of what’s already in the movie. The alternate ending is actually pretty cool, but it’s considerably darker then the one used; Alvart (correctly) notes in the commentary that it’s unusual for a film like this to have something approaching a happy ending, so it would have also made his film feel even more generic and ripped-off if he’d used it.

There’s a pretty standard making-of featurette that’s nothing special, but it’s interesting enough. Also included are two odd little extras, neither of which works particularly well: ‘What Happened to Nadia’s Team’ ostensibly shows what happened to Antje Traue’s team of scientists before things went pear-shaped on the ship. It only runs a few minutes and is shot Blair Witch-style with a handheld camera. It looks cheap, and nothing about it really clicks with the movie itself. It just feels like a weird, gimmicky thing to put on a DVD, and I failed to see the point of it. There’s also a ‘Flight Team Training Video’ which purports to be a video shown to members of the ship’s crew before the ship takes off, and it doesn’t really do much other than remind the viewer of some aspects of the plot. It’s sort of cute, and not as lame as ‘Nadia’s Team,’ but, again, I didn’t see why it was included.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010
  Sony hires new Spider-Man director
It’s official: Sony has hired Marc Webb to direct the new Spider-Man movie. Webb, who helmed last summer’s indie romantic comedy hit, (500) Days of Summer (which I haven’t seen, but I’ve heard both good and bad things about it), is apparently the hot director in Hollywood right now, and will reboot the franchise, moving the setting back to high school and focusing on the adolescent problems of Peter Parker, complete with a love quadrangle (with bully Flash Thompson, Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy, played by Bryce Dallas Howard in Spider-Man 3).

The new Spider-Man films will be based more on the Ultimate Spider-Man series of comics launched in the 1990s, which similarly revamped the story for a more modern audience, as opposed to previous Spider-Man director Sam Raimi’s movies, which were inspired by the original Spidey books from the 1960s. The Ultimate version focuses more on teen angst than action, and the budget for the new film (around $80 million, which is actually pretty small for a modern superhero movie; Spider-Man 3 is said to have cost anywhere from $200 million to $300 million) seems to reflect that. It’s also assumed that unknown actors will be cast in the main roles.

Now, I hate to be that guy, but I have to be. This sounds like a terrible idea. It sounds like Sony’s chasing the Twilight/teen romance trend. And while I can appreciate the studio wanting to lower the budget in these tougher economic times, it’s hard to take this news as anything other than a step downwards for the Spider-Man cinematic franchise. I’m not even a huge fan of Spider-Man (the movies or the comics), but this is very disappointing news.

None of this is a knock against Webb; even the negative things I’ve heard about (500) Days of Summer acknowledge Webb’s visual talents, so I’m not worried that the movie will look bad. I just feel, as a fan of superheroes and superhero movies, that the genre, in film, is just starting to get to some interesting places, and I think Spider-Man (basically the mascot of Marvel Comics, the way Superman and Batman are at DC) deserves better than to be subjected to the Twilight treatment.

My negativity aside, I’m not going to pretend I won’t be following the development of this project closely. I’m trying to keep an open mind; I don’t want a crappy Spider-Man movie, but right now I’m not sure I can see how this new film will come close to the great, genre-defining movies Raimi crafted.

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Friday, January 15, 2010
  DVD Review: A Perfect Getaway

A Perfect Getaway is a twisty thriller that’s so much better than it has any business being that it came within a hair’s breadth of sneaking in to the No. 10 spot on my list of the best movies of 2009. Not so much because it’s really, mind-blowingly great, but rather because I was so pleasantly surprised with it. The fact that the twist at the end is so gettable that most sharp viewers will probably figure out shortly after the opening credits (it would have been a bit more effective if all the marketing for the movie didn’t tell you that there was a big twist at the end) and the fact that movie is still as watchable and fun as it is is actually quite an achievement for writer/director David Twohy, last seen helming the awful/hilarious would-be sci-fi epic The Chronicles of Riddick.

The movie follows a newlywed couple (Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich) on their honeymoon in a remote part of Hawaii. As they’re traveling in the jungle, they hear about a pair of killers in the area posing as a couple. Considering that by this point they’ve met not one but two other couples who seem like they could be murderers, things start to get predictably tense – especially after they can’t seem to shake either of the other couples. The more normal-seeming couple is played by Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez. He’s a special forces type (or “American jedi” as he calls himself) who seems far too at ease around violence, and she’s a free-spirited southern belle who seems like she could be hiding something. Then there’s the even scarier couple played by Chris Hemsworth and Marley Shelton, who look like a pair of crazy meth dealers on vacation. As you can imagine, many psychological games of cat-and-mouse are played, and things are pretty much never what they seem.

What holds A Perfect Getaway together is the combination solid performances (from actors clearly having a great time) and Twohy’s smarter-than-you’d-expect script. Steve Zahn’s an actor I enjoy in just about anything I see him in, ' that the twist? We shouldn't be able to spot it from THIS far off, should we?'and he’s great as a bookish, slightly awkward screenwriter who keeps finding himself in situations he’d rather not be in. Olyphant is the other highlight, managing to be hilarious and charming and sort of scary all at the same time.

Twohy, despite having made The Chronicles of Riddick, also made its predecessor, the far superior little sci-fi/horror flick Pitch Black (it wisely chooses the path of ripping off Alien rather than Chronicles, which ripped off Star Wars), and A Perfect Getaway is in a similar vein. The tension comes from not being sure what will happen next, and even if you, as I did, called the twist from the opening minutes, it’s still fun to see how Twohy gets from Point A to Point B and how everything gets explained.

Twohy also uses a device that, in other hands, could have been grating and heavy-handed, but he handles it fairly well: Zahn’s character is meant to be a screenwriter, which fascinates Olyphant, and the two keep discussing the mechanics of movie storytelling (Olyphant has a cute running gag where he keeps mistakenly referring to plot misdirection as “red snappers,” which is what I’ve called them ever since watching this film), often covering what happens in movies exactly like the one you’re watching. Twohy uses his little gimmick just enough to wink at the audience and let them know that he knows that they know what kind of movie they’re watching (like when a character reveals something about themselves that will clearly come into play later in the movie, or when Olyphant refers to something that would “make a hell of 'You can trust me. I was on Deadwood.'an Act Two twist”). Normally I hate that sort of thing, but somehow in A Perfect Getaway it works, contributing to the film’s sense of fun.

A Perfect Getaway confirms that David Twohy’s strengths as a filmmaker lie in taut little flicks like this one, not with ostensible sci-fi epics. He definitely knows what he’s doing in terms of craftsmanship – there’s some really gorgeous shots of the jungle in this movie, and he can build tension like a mofo, despite the fact that a big chunk of the movie is basically just Zahn, Olyphant, Jovovich and Sanchez hanging around in the jungle being suspicious of each other – and the extended sequence at the end where he reveals everything is particularly well-constructed. Any time I can correctly guess the twist this early and still manage to have a this good a time watching the movie, that movie is definitely doing a lot of things right.



The only extra on the DVD for A Perfect Getaway is the original scripted ending (which isn’t much different from the ending in the film, except that it’s far more vague and less satisfying than the one that was eventually used), which is sort of a shame. I’d have loved to see a commentary from Twohy or a making-of featurette.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010
  DVD Review: Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day

Ah, the Trailer Park Boys. The beloved Canadian sitcom (which was doing the faux-documentary thing before The Office) ran from 2001 to 2008 (including two TV specials), spawning two feature films, Countdown to Liquor Day being the latter, as well as the official, final, no-really-we-mean-it-this-time end of the Trailer Park Boys. Countdown to Liquor Day picks up as the boys are getting out of jail, two years after being busted at the end of the hour-long 2008 special. Would-be criminal mastermind Julian (John Paul Tremblay) swears he’s going straight for real this time, while the comically stupid Ricky (Robb Wells) tells the parole board up front that he’s planning to go back do growing pot (“I could tell you guys whatever you want to hear, or I can be honest. I’m gonna grow dope, ‘cause that’s what I’m good at. I grow the best dope of anybody I’ve ever met.”), while the bespectacled Bubbles (Mike Smith) just wants to get back to his shed and his kitties. But once they get out, the Boys realize their nemesis, Trailer Park Supervisor Jim Lahey, has transformed their beloved Sunnyvale Trailer Park into a more upscale community. (He also hasn’t had a drink in two years, but the title of the movie gives you a hint as to how that works out.)

Countdown to Liquor Day is clearly meant to the wrap up the series and give the beloved characters a proper send-off. There’s almost a sadness to the movie, a sense that the viewer (as well as the cast and crew) are really saying goodbye to the characters. Trailer Park Boys has never shied away from showing how important the Boys’ family unit is to each of them, but this time it feels The Boyslike every character is more willing to come out and say it (there’s a particularly touching scene where the usually too-cool Julian tells Bubbles that he loves him. It’s fairly clear through the run of the show that Julian would do anything for his friends, but to actually have him just say it to Bubbles the way he does is oddly affecting if you’re a fan). Or seeing how furious Ricky (easily the most misanthropic of the Boys, but also somehow the most loveable) gets when he learns that Mr. Lahey and his faithful sidekick/lover Randy (whose huge gut graces the DVD cover, and remains a hilarious visual gag on its own) were responsible for shaving a chunk out of Bubbles’ hair. As much as the scene where Ricky returns the favor to Randy is hilarious (it’s really one of the funniest sequences in the movie), it’s also very clear that Ricky is avenging his friend’s humiliation. There’s even a scene where Ricky breaks down and cries, which is about the last thing I ever expected to happen (it also leads to one of the best parts of the movie, Julian’s “Grade 12 is inside of you” speech).

There’s a tangible feeling throughout the film that this is it, the final Trailer Park Boys story. It’s sort of like Mike Clattenburg (who co-wrote and directed every single episode of the show, as well as all the movies, which is actually a pretty incredible achievement) and co.’s third kick at the can – the final episode of the proper show felt like the finale, as did the subsequent one-hour special, Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys (which is unfortunately still unavailable on DVD). The extended ending of the Trailer Park Boys franchise is a little like the end of the Lord of the Rings movies, but as with the 12-hour fantasy epic, I feel like TPB has earned the right to take its time wrapping everything up.

As much as I’m a fan of the show (read my review of the whole series here), I actually found I didn’t really laugh very much watching Countdown to Liquor Day. Which isn’t really a knock; the movie is very funny, but I found the comedy to be more tonal and character-based rather than laugh-out-loud hilarious (though the movie does have plenty of moments like that as well). I enjoyed Countdown to Liquor Day purely because I got to spend time with these characters again (including my personal fave, the painfully white would-be rapper J-Roc, who steals every scene he’s in and, next to Bubbles, is probably the smartest character on the show…which is sort of sad), and I’m happy to say the movie works very well as a capper to the Trailer Park Boys.

My favorite aspect of Countdown to Liquor Day is sort of subtle (but not really; it’s actually fairly important to the plot), and it marks a definite change in the Trailer Park Boys universe. As in all sitcoms, there’s a status quo to TPB to which things invariably return at the end of if not evThe Boys prepare for their big job. You can probably guess how well that goes.ery episode, every story arc: Ricky grows dope and is a screw-up, Bubbles lives in his shed with his precious kitties, Mr. Lahey’s a drunken mess, and Julian is an ostensible small-time criminal mastermind who always has a plan and is generally looked up to by everyone in Sunnyvale. But Countdown to Liquor Day begins by flipping one very important part of that premise: now, after years of ridiculous failures that have landed himself and his buddies in jail numerous times, just about everyone in Sunnyvale views Julian as a loser. It’s remarkable how much this changes the dynamics of the characters, as now virtually nobody in Sunnyvale has any time for Julian or his latest scheme (which is admittedly probably his dumbest plan yet), whereas before, practically everyone in the park would be lining up to work for him. Countdown to Liquor Day has reality beginning to seep into Sunnyvale.

This is definitely more than an hour-and-a-half episode of the show; Clattenburg adds enough small touches to Countdown to Liquor Day (shooting in lots of different locations, the use of music cues like “I Fall to Pieces” when Randy breaks up with Mr. Lahey, a romantic subplot for Bubbles) that it feels like a larger-scale TPB story. The climactic bank heist/shootout/car chase is easily the most elaborate setpiece in Trailer Park Boys history. (Also, it has Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson in a cameo as a cross-dressing undercover cop.)

More than anything, Countdown to Liquor Day feels like a victory lap for fans (and I mean this in the best possible way). As much as you don’t really need to have seen the show or previous movie to appreciate the comedy (context isn’t really that important to the gag at the beginning that sees Ricky and Julian walking out of jail, sneaking off the prison bus and immediately stealing a corrections van and robbing a liquor store after swearing to the parole board they’re going straight), most of the humor comes from familiarity with the characters and their relationships with each other. If this is your first introduction to the Trailer Park Boys, most of it will probably be lost on you. But if you’re not a fan and any of this sounds interesting to you, I highly recommend you seek out the show. It’s fantastic.



All the Trailer Park Boys DVDs have lots of extras, and Countdown to Liquor Day is no different. There’s great a collection of deleted scenes, as well as an alternate ending that I daresay is actually better and funnier than the one in the finished film. There’s also a decent-sized makJulian looking sexy, enjoying a drinking-of documentary and featurettes on the car chase and Randy’s haircut.

The only real disappointment is the commentary track. In previous Trailer Park Boys DVDs, Clattenburg and/or the cast (sometimes in character, sometimes not) almost always provide commentary, but here they elect to let some fans from a TPB fan forum provide commentary. I can understand if after hours and hours of commentaries, Clattenburg feels he has nothing more to say about the franchise, but the resulting track amounts to little more than boring people laughing at and pointing out jokes. It’s really, really bad, and not interesting at all.

Overall though, Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day is a very solid DVD for a hilarious movie that caps off one of the best – and most important – shows in Canadian television history.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010
  DVD Review: Taking Woodstock

Taking Woodstock is a movie I should probably hate, or, at the very least, be bored silly by. It’s a warmly-remembered, based-on-a-true-story movie about the story behind the legendary music festival (I’m too young to get all warm and fuzzy when I think about “the ‘60s” as a time in American cultural history, and I find the majority of music from the period to be an agonizing bore), and it stars comedian and former Daily Show contributor Demetri Martin, who I really don’t like at all. But it’s delightful. It’s funny, warm, sweet, and Martin does a surprisingly good job carrying the whole thing. I blame Ang Lee.

Ang Lee, it would seem, doesn’t make bad movies. I haven’t seen all of his movies, but the ones I’ve seen (the worst is probably his 2003 version of Marvel’s Hulk, and I actually think that movie’s a lot better than people give it credit for) have all been good-to-excellent. I couldn’t have been more skeptical about Taking Woodstock going in, and I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised coming out of it. (Well, that’s probably not true. If someone had turned into a robot or a wizard that probably would have been pretty badass.) So believe me when I say that knowledge of/interest in the ‘60s and Woodstock is not a prerequisite to enjoying this film (though I’m sure you’ll get more out of it if you are into that stuff).

Taking Woodstock is based on the autobiography of Elliot Tiber (whose name was switched to Teichberg for the movie), who helped organize the Woodstock festival as a young man helping his parents run a small (evidently decrepit) motel in upstate New York after a neighboring town pulls the plug on the hippie concert.

Maybe it’s just my own lack of interest in the mythology of Woodstock, but the fact that Lee never really shows us the concert is really charming; if you’re looking for a semi-concert film, just check out the 1970 documentary. The story if Taking Woodstock is Elliot’s story, and Lee and writer James Schamus wisely never lose sight of that fact. Also excellent are the supporting cast, which includes Eugene Levy as Max Yasgur, the man on whose property the festival would eventually take place, Emile Hirsch as a Vietnam veteran trying to get his mind sorted out after all the crazy things he saw “over there,” and Liev Schreiber as a cross-dressing ex-marine who agrees to help Elliot and his family with security. But Imelda Staunton and Henry Goodman steal the show (realizing both were actually British after the fact was a trip) as Elliot’s parents. They manage to be both frustrating and lovable, as real parents are, and both characters get nice little arcs alongside Demetri Martin’s Elliot.

Speaking of Martin, I need to mention how good he is if for nothing other than I couldn’t believe he was the same guy who’s Comedy Central show, Important Things, has nearly paralyzed me with rage on more than one occasion. He’s not the second coming of De Niro or Pacino, but for a first-time actor (especially one who’s in virtually every scene in the film), he’s great. He’s funny and sweet and warm when he needs to be, and his performance gives Elliot a trace of sadness with a subtlety I wasn’t expecting.

The only part of Taking Woodstock that really didn’t work for me at all was the acid trip sequence late in the film. It’s exactly what I was afraid this movie would be; indulgent and overly nostalgic for the ‘60s, as well as way too long (it runs a couple of minutes). All things considered, it’s a pretty minor gripe, but I really would have enjoyed the movie more if it hadn’t been there. Also, the final scene in the film does an annoying “nudge-nudge/wink-wink” thing to the audience that I particularly hate in movies like this; I don’t want to spoil anything, but it plays on our understanding of events that took place after Woodstock. For a movie that’s as wonderfully subtle and understated in its commentary on the ‘60s and what they meant to American culture, it’s a weirdly heavy-handed touch.

All told, Taking Woodstock is a very good movie. It managed to hold my interest despite my (admittedly low) expectations, and its characters and story are warm and quirky without being too precious. Whether you’re a devoted fan of all things ‘60s or an outsider like myself, Taking Woodstock is a delightful little movie.



The Taking Woodstock DVD has a solid assortment of extras, led by a commentary track from Ang Lee and longtime producer/writing partner James Schamus. The pair, clearly old buddies, have a nice, playful dynamic together, and while there’s nothing particularly mind-blowing, the commentary is never boring.

There’s also a collection of deleted and extended scenes, and a nice featurette on the production of the movie. The latter doesn’t run long enough to overstay its welcome, and it covers just about everything from film’s inception (someone randomly gave Lee a copy of Tiber’s book while the director was promoting his previous film overseas) to the writing and casting and production.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010
  Spider-Man 4 revamp proves I don't actually know anything
I discussed in this space a few days ago the rift between Sony Pictures and director Sam Raimi over the direction (i.e. the villains) in the fourth Spider-Man movie; Raimi, a fan of vintage Spider-Man comics, was pushing for the classic baddie the Vulture, while Sony, I guess terrified of the prospect of trying to market a superhero blockbuster co-starring a middle-aged bald guy in a green vulture-suit, wanted anyone but him to be the villain. I concluded that the notion of Sony moving ahead with a fourth Spider-Man movie without Raimi (who seemed to be returning mostly to make up for the disappointing Spider-Man 3) was a longshot. After all, Raimi made the first three movies, has more invested in the character and world than any other director of a superhero franchise I can think of, and is a major reason for the series’ success.

Shows what I know.

The news is now that Sony and Raimi are parting ways – apparently amicably – and the studio has bumped the targeted release of Spider-Man 4 one year to summer 2012, and is planning to revamp the franchise with a new director and a new cast. (There was actually a rumor around the time Spider-Man 3 was nearing production, when Tobey Maguire wasn’t getting into shape fast enough after injuring his back making Seabiscuit, that Jake Gyllenhaal may get called in as a last-second replacement.) As much as I didn’t think it would come to this, I’m sort of glad it’s working out this way. As much as I didn’t care for Spider-Man 3 myself and would have liked to see Raimi leave the series on a higher note, I have nothing but respect for him as a filmmaker and I think he should move on to something else (they guy’s spent the better part of a decade basically living in the Spider-Man cinematic universe; I’m sure he’d like to do other things). And I dig Tobey Maguire in the lead, but I’ve always hated Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane (she is hideous and unlikeable), so I won’t miss her. And Maguire is 34, so he may be getting a little long in the tooth to play the wall-crawler. I think a new cast could be a really great.

My only concern at this point is that if this is a sort of “reboot” to the series, we’ll have to sit through another origin story. I am so sick of origin stories. I love superheroes, but I’m so tired of every superhero movie/franchise starting with an origin story, where viewers has to spend an hour or more watching events line up so the protagonist can become the character we paid our money to see. Spider-Man has as compelling an origin as any other superhero, and Raimi did an excellent job adapting it to the screen in the first movie; what I’m afraid of is the studio and/or the new director will feel the need to put their own stamp on it, and we’ll have to sit through another 55 minutes of Peter Parker getting bullied and not talking to girls and getting bitten by enhanced spiders and learning to use his powers. I’ve seen that already. With any luck, this “new” Spider-Man 4 will do what I’ve been waiting years to see in a superhero film; start the story with the character already established in the world, and just go from there. Audiences aren’t so stupid that they need to be reminded who Spider-Man is just because there’s a new actor in the blue and red tights. But everything in the story I linked to suggests that we’re going to get exactly that.


In related news, they started shooting the Thor movie this month. Thor is a character I didn’t really get into until I got older and began to appreciate the awesome madness in combining ancient Norse with a sci-fi design sensibility that artist/co-creator Jack Kirby dreamed up for the character in the 1960s (not to mention the idea of mythological characters in what was up until then a very science-based universe; the classic Marvel books were very much artifacts of the Atomic Age), and ever since then I’ve had a soft spot for the hammer-wielding hero. The idea that they’re shooting a big-budget Hollywood Thor movie– directed by Kenneth Branagh no less! – is a serious trip. I sort of never thought I’d live to see the day, you know?

Thor stars Chris Hemsworth in the title role (I’ve only seen him in a couple of things, like the excellent little thriller A Perfect Getaway – full DVD review coming soon but I think he will be awesome), alongside Tom Hiddleston as his evil half-brother Loki, Natalie Portman as his human love interest, Jane Foster, as well as Anthony Hopkins as Odin, plus Ray Stevenson, Idris Elba, Colm Feore, Stellan Skarsgård and a several other people that I sort of can’t believe are in a Thor movie. Hopefully I’ll have finished picking up the pieces of my mind from the floor in time for the May 6, 2011 release date.

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Friday, January 8, 2010
  My Top 10 of 2009
A quick note before I begin. I decided against doing a “worst” list this year, as, quite frankly, I didn’t see enough truly awful movies to put one together (I’m pretty good at avoiding movies I’m pretty sure I’ll hate). Sure, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was pretty terrible, but at this point ripping that film is like shooting fish in a barrel. I’m going for positivity in 2010. We’ll see how that works out.

Anyway, on with the list. Here are the 10 best movies I saw in 2009.

10. Away We Go
A good friend of mine told me his reaction to this movie was something to the effect of “Oh wow, I didn’t realize they still made comedies for actual adults anymore,” and that’s about the best way I can put it. Director Sam Mendes, screenwriters Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida and stars John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph all deserve incredible praise for this incredibly warm – and incredibly funny – comedy about a couple expecting their first child. I totally expected to hate this movie going in, and I’m still blown away by how much I enjoyed it. Just great stuff.

9. Up
I actually sought this movie out on Blu-ray specifically for this list; it’s been on just about every other “Best of 2009” list I’ve seen, and, to me, and no Pixar movie since The Incredibles has looked this interesting. Within 10 minutes of pressing play, I knew I wasn’t going to have to sit through a movie meant for kids with maybe a couple of references aimed at the over-15 set; Up is a simply a great movie, filled with warmth, great characters, genuinely exciting adventure and brilliant storytelling. Usually when I keep hearing a movie is great I become skeptical, and I was a little skeptical about this one, but Up really is an excellent little movie, even for a hard-hearted curmudgeon like me.

8. The Informant!
I love me some Steven Soderbergh, I’ve made no secret of that, and this movie manages to be funny as hell (like Brad Pitt, I happen to think Matt Damon is an incredibly talented comic actor trapped in a movie star’s body) as well as dramatic and oddly affecting. There’s a moment late in the film where Damon’s character, a too-enthusiastic whistleblower at a massive food conglomerate, goes from absurdly funny to just sort of weird and sad, and almost nothing about Damon’s performance actually changes. Soderbergh also fills the “straight” roles with comedians (including Joel McHale, star of the very good new sitcom, Community), but it’s Scott Bakula as the Damon’s FBI handler who steals the movie. And Marvin Hamlisch’s incredible score perfectly highlights the offbeat humor without overwhelming it. Even though The Informant! (man, even the title makes me laugh, but I have a soft spot for grammar-based humor) is set in the early 1990s, its themes of personal and corporate greed and malfeasance couldn’t be more relevant to our times.

7. Fantastic Mr. Fox
I’m a pretty big fan of Wes Anderson (a filmmaker as beloved in some quarters as he is loathed in others) though I felt his last live-action film, 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited, was his weakest effort yet. He won me back with his stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book, fusing the author’s story with his own decidedly quirky sensibilities. I went in expecting a charming enough little oddity in Anderson’s filmography (he basically directed the film via e-mails to the animators in Britain, but never visited the “set” himself), but ended up laughing harder than I did at most comedies I saw this year, and both the story and performances from the all-star cast (including George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman) were delightful. A really pleasant surprise, and a rare family film that actually appeals to the entire family.

6. Where the Wild Things Are
Acclaimed novelist Dave Eggers made his debut as a screenwriter in 2009 with two films, Where the Wild Things Are and Away We Go, and both were among the best movies I saw all year. In both cases – well, definitely more with this adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s beloved children’s book – the director deserves tons of credit too. Spike Jonze makes pretty great movies that are nothing what I expect going in, and Where the Wild Things Are was no different. A kid’s movie that isn’t really for kids but is rather more about being a kid (a concept that you sort of have to have progressed beyond childhood to fully appreciate), no other movie this got to me the way this one did. A beautiful, heartbreaking film by one of the most talented filmmakers working today.

5. Black Dynamite
Screw The Hangover; this was easily the funniest movie I saw all year. This low-budget indie comedy from director Scott Sanders and co-writer/star Michael Jai White (you probably remember him as the angry, hulking crime boss the Joker knocks off early The Dark Knight, right before holding “tryouts”), this movie came out of nowhere and blew me away. A hilarious and affectionate spoof of ‘70s blaxploitation films, Black Dynamite follows a guy called Black Dynamite (even his family calls him that), a former CIA operative called out of retirement when his kid brother is killed by drug dealers, but uncovers a plot involving heroin, malt liquor and kung fu that reaches into the highest levels of government. No other movie in 2009 made me laugh this hard. I can’t wait for the DVD release on Feb. 2 so I can revisit Black Dynamite over and over again. An instant cult classic.

4. Watchmen
As much as this choice is based largely in my personal affection for this property (regular readers know I’ve been a fan of the book since I was in high school), I really do believe this is a movie people will still be watching and talking about a decade from now, and it’s as important, if not more so, to the development of the superhero genre of movies as The Dark Knight. It’s almost as dense and layered as the book it’s based on, which, if you’ve ever read Watchmen, you know is a helluva staItement. Zack Snyder’s film is certainly not without its flaws – Matthew Goode, Malin Ackerman and Carla Gugino run the gamut from “pretty bad” to “laughably awful,” and Goode, in particular, is cast in a role that really needs to be done perfectly – but this remains one of the most incredible experiences I had in a movie theater all year, and I’ve watched the Blu-ray more times since picking it up than I have just about anything else on this list (save No. 1). Personally, this is a movie I’ll be living with and revisiting for years to come.

3. Inglourious Basterds
I’ve already written two reviews for Quentin Tarantino’s nutty World War II masterpiece, so I’ll keep it short. The best movie yet from one of the most important filmmakers to emerge in the last 25 years is pretty much a lock on any list. Movies don’t get much better.

2. The Hurt Locker
I’ve gone on and on in this space before about how much I dig Kathryn Bigelow’s movies, particularly Near Dark and Point Break, so I was stoked about this movie the second I learned of its existence. The fact that several months after its release, this Iraq bomb squad thriller is maintaining this kind of buzz going into awards season (the film and Bigelow are picking up critics’ awards left right and center) makes me think that, despite my usual cynicism, there may actually be some justice in the world. It’s not too often that an action-thriller is anchored by such incredible performances (and I should know, I watch a lot of action movies), but Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie combine with Bigelow’s brilliant direction and Mark Boal’s sharp, economical script to make something truly special. Not to be missed.

1. District 9
When I’m excited about a movie, I get very excited, and occasionally (okay, usually) my expectations get ratcheted up to unreasonable levels. From the first teaser, I was absolutely dying to see this movie, and as the months went by and the release date neared, I started to worry that maybe I’d done it again. But when the closing credits rolled on the opening-day screening I attended, I knew my mind had been truly blown. The story, the craftsmanship on display, the effects (which put Avatar to shame, frankly), everything about this movie works perfectly. For me, nothing else in 2009 came close to director Neill Blomkamp’s debut, about the tensions in Johannesburg 20-some years after a spaceship full of dying aliens settled over the city, and with the exception of Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds, Sharlto Copley’s incredible work as the unlikely hero Wikus Van De Merwe was the breakout performance of the year. I’ve watched District 9 several times since picking up the DVD (and Blu-ray! I am such a nerd), and I don’t think I’ll be stopping any time soon. Just an amazing piece of cinema.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010
  Spider-Man 4 delayed over villains
Bad news for fans of Marvel’s web-slinger: Sony has announced that it has delayed the planned spring production start of Spider-Man 4 due to clashes with franchise director Sam Raimi over the script, specifically, who the villain (or villains) will be. It seems that Raimi, a fan of the classic Spider-Man stories of the ‘60s, wants to go with the old-school baddie the Vulture (a middle-aged guy in a flying vulture-suit), while Sony wants, from what I understand, anyone but the Vulture, and to add some sex appeal and throw in the Black Cat (a sexy female thief in a catsuit with a flirty relationship with Spidey; essentially Marvel’s answer to Catwoman). But the last time Raimi had a villain forced on him by the studio, it was Venom in the generally-disliked Spider-Man 3. (Venom is a bad guy from the ‘80s and ‘90s, and Raimi was basically talked into including him against his wishes; I think the results bear themselves out in the fairly mediocre final product.) Raimi originally wanted Spider-Man 3’s villainous tandem to be Sandman and the Vulture, but he relented and replaced the winged bad guy with an evil alien version of Spidey’s costume.

Things could get dicey from here on in. Will Sony stick to their guns and risk Raimi – whose importance to success and the unique vibe of the Spider-Man movies cannot be overstated – walking away? From what I’ve read, the main reason Raimi even agreed to do a fourth movie was to make up for the third (which he has himself acknowledged was a disappointment), so it’s doubly bizarre that Sony is apparently again trying to force him into doing things with the story he doesn’t want to do. Raimi is a massive fan of Spider-Man, so he has a lot personally invested in these movies, probably more than any other director of a superhero franchise, so one would think the studio would let him do his thing (after all, it seemed to work out pretty well in the first two movies). And if Raimi does bail on the series, Sony will be forced to either kill the project entirely (which seems highly unlikely given that Spider-Man is arguably Sony’s biggest franchise), or hire another director to come in and take over, which would basically rip the heart out of the series. There’s an incredible amount of love and heart in the Spider-Man movies (I think that’s one of the main reasons they resonate with viewers the way they do), and Raimi is a very unique filmmaker, so it’s pretty safe to say Spider-Man 4 directed by someone other than Sam Raimi (especially with the cast of the first three intact) just won’t be the same.

I really hope Sony and Raimi can work this out. If we’re going to get a fourth Spider-Man movie, it should be the one that the filmmaker who helped make the franchise into the juggernaut it is wants to make.

In the meantime, Spider-Man 4’s production has been put on hold, and while Sony hasn’t officially moved the May 6, 2011 release date, Paramount and Marvel have just bumped up the release of Thor two weeks to the May 6 slot, which is a bit telling. Stay tuned to see how this plays out.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010
  DVD Review: Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds is a brilliant movie. It’s probably Quentin Tarantino’s best film yet (something he himself seems to acknowledge
with the final line of the film, spoken directly into the camera by Brad Pitt), fusing the wacky, over-the-top style of Kill Bill with the more mature storytelling of Jackie Brown.

Like a lot of Tarantino movies, the pacing of Inglourious Basterds is very weird (huge chunks of dialogue, quick bursts of violence), even more so than usual with his movies, but it still all works somehow. It's filled with things that left a lot of people cold in his previous film, Death Proof – very long stretches where nothing more happens than characters converse in an almost direct challenge to the viewer’s patience – but unlike that film, where I (and just about everyone else) felt bored more than once and really just wanted everyone to shut the hell up and just DO something already, in Inglourious Basterds I was in no real rush to get to the inevitable violence that breaks the tension in Tarantino films; the scene in the basement bar, for example, I could have happily watched go on for another 10 or 15 minutes (and it already runs close to a half-hour, by Tarantino’s own estimation). This is a movie filled with things that shouldn’t work, but they do, and they work spectacularly.

Inglourious Basterds is Tarantino’s most audacious movie, and not just because he changes the history of WWII. The fact that he made a comedic action movie about World War II, one that doesn't attempt to gloss over the Nazis but in fact rather is very much about the Nazis (the movie is chock full of Nazi imagery, more than any recent WWII movie I can recall), and takes such gleeful pleasure in their’s amazing that he pulled off a film that’s so filled with grisly violence, but is also hysterical.

As much as it’s a war movie, Inglourious Basterds drips with cinema, somehow being both an insane triumph of the medium, and also being about it, but without getting too precious about it. The fact that Tarantino’s movie about movies is actually a WWII picture (as opposed to a more traditional Hollywood spoof where it’s a movie about how movies are made) just makes it weirder, but it also makes a certain sense, as WWII was the last black-and-white, good-vs.-evil war, which therefore makes it the last great war you can make a fun action-adventure movie about. There have been brilliant movies about all
Pitt's Lt. Aldo Raine prepares his Basterds for warsorts of depressing, more recent wars, from Platoon to 2009’s phenomenal Iraq War thriller The Hurt Locker, but I don't think anyone would call any of those films “fun.”

The cast also deserves a huge amount of credit. Brad Pitt, despite being the focus of the marketing, has a relatively small role, though he made me laugh just about every time he opened his mouth. (I happen to think Pitt, despite his movie-idol looks, is an incredibly underrated comic actor.) Christoph Waltz is getting the bulk of the attention (and it’s all deserved; this is the best villain performance I’ve seen since Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, which doesn’t sound like much, as that film came out in 2008, but that was one of the best villains I’d seen in a movie in many years), and it looks like he’s still a shoo-in for an Oscar. His Col. Hans Landa is alternately charming, terrifying and ridiculous (that pipe!), and it’s a truly special performance. But it’s Mélanie Laurent as Shoshanna, the revenge-seeking cinema proprietor, who really blows me away every time I watch the movie (which has been a few times now). She gets the best character arc in the movie, and Tarantino once again displays his flair for creating truly strong female protagonists. Laurent’s Shoshanna goes right up there in the pantheon with Pam Grier’s Jackie Brown and Uma Thruman’s Bride
. Just fantastic stuff.

I mentioned not too long ago when I ran down my list of favorite movies that Kill Bill is my favorite Tarantino movie, and it still is. But Inglourious Basterds is his best so far. It’s so good that I spent a chunk of this review fighting against my dark urges to use awful movie-review clichés like calling it “a towering achievement,” but that’s exactly what this movie is. Inglourious Basterds is a great movie, and like just about all of his previous films, it’s one that only Quentin Tarantino could have made.



Inglourious Basterds marks one of the first times a Quentin Tarantino film gets a properly loaded DVD release right out of the gate (everything else he’s done, with the exceptionThe divine Mélanie Laurent as Shoshanna of Death Proof, was initially issued as a bare-bones disc, with the proper special editions coming later...and I’m still waiting for the long-promised Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair, but I'm starting to think the Maple Leafs will win a Stanley Cup before that happens. But I’m digressing). The two-disc special edition DVD comes with some nice extras, though no commentary; Tarantino still seems to record commentary tracks only for other people’s movies. There are some extended and deleted scenes on disc 1, as well as the full version of the Nazi propaganda film featured in the latter part of the movie, A Nation’s Pride.

Disc 2 has a nice extended junket discussion between Tarantino, Pitt and New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell, which manages to cover plenty of ground in about 20 minutes or so. There’s a making-of bit for A Nation’s Pride that, unfortunately, is actually just a lame comedy bit purporting to be a featurette about the actual fake movie, featuring interviews with “Joseph Goebbels” and a particularly irritating Eli Roth (who plays Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz in the film) pretending to be the director of the film within the film, complete with a painfully hammy accent. It’s only a few minutes long, but it falls flat and feels considerably a lot longer than it actually is. Also included is a montage of the actors greeting Tarantino’s longtime editor, Sally Menke, in various outtakes, (it’s weird, but also oddly charming) and some more goofy behind-the-scenes footage. It’s not as comprehensive as I wanted it to be – I’m a sucker for lengthy making-of documentaries and filmmaker commentaries for movies as fantastic as Inglourious Basterds – but the movie itself is the main attraction here. This is a very solid DVD for what's easily one of the best movies of 2009, and it deserves inclusion in the collections of anyone who considers themselves a movie buff.

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A blog about movies, by a guy who probably watches too many.

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